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FCC freezes FM license auction, delaying possible Sacramento station

The Federal Communications Commission has postponed an auction for broadcasters to bid on vacant FM dial spots.

The auction for more than 100 of FM licenses was scheduled to take place at the end of April, which would have opened the door for dozens if not hundreds of new radio stations to launch across the country.

Acting on a motion filed by small community broadcaster Coffee County Broadcasters, Inc., the FCC announced in mid-March that the auction would be postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.

Broadcast companies who wanted to participate in the auction were required to submit a sizable application fee, but the FCC is now offering refunds for any fees paid to potential participants if they request it in writing.

Of the more than 130 FM licenses up for grabs, 10 were located in California, including one license with the highest starting bid price: Channel 300 — or 107.9 FM — in Sacramento. That full-power spot has been vacant since Entercom Communications gave up its license to broadcast on the frequency in 2017 in order to clear a regulatory hurdle connected to its merger with then-rival broadcaster CBS Radio.

The auction, announced last year, gave some radio listeners hope that a new station would be launched in Sacramento at that spot, but the postponement means the frequency will remain unused for at least a little while longer.